Lessons in Righteousness from Casey and Caylee Anthony

by Dennis Michelson
(Novelty, Ohio)

Matthew 5:17-26

Introduction: Many have been moved by the criminal proceedings in the wake of the death of Caylee Anthony. Her mother has been acquitted of the most serious charges and there is a general sense of outrage from the public at large. Some believe that justice has not been served in this case.

What about righteousness? How would you feel right now if you were Casey Anthony? You have been condemned, maligned, and become the object of multiple death threats. Have you considered how God views these things? We like to believe that we are "better" than a Casey Anthony since we have not acutally killed someone, but what about the biblical perspective on these things?

Is it possible that a person can sit in church every week and actually be under greater condemnation than Casey Anthony? Is it possible you have something in your heart that is even more wicked than what this young woman may have done with her hand? Please consider the following -

1. External Rule of Man (5:21)

The law clearly prohibits murder. Compare with Exodus 20:13. The verb used in the latter text is never used of Israel at war. The punishment for murder was distinguished from the punishment for manslaughter. However, being a non-murderer does not qualify you for being a righteous person.

2. Internal Righteousness of God (5:22)

This moves beyond a prohibition for murder. It prohibits sinful anger and hatred.

a. It forbids unreasonable anger "without a cause." Of course we learn in Ephesians 4:26 that anger is not always sinful but when there is no clear reason then such anger is considered as unrighteousness.

b. It forbids calling a brother Raca. This means a vapid, empty, worthless person.

c. It forbids calling someone a Fool (Moreh). This term is more serious than Raca in that it goes beyond behavior and actually points to the matter of motivation. A fool in this sense is one who is a rebel and apostate. The seriousness of this is seen when the danger of hell fire is raised as a possible outcome. Whenever we condemn someone else in the strongest of terms there is a tacit understanding that we think we are really much better than they are and thus cloud the issue of true righteousness.

3. Temporal Penalty of Man (5:22)

a. The danger of judgment - probably a seven-man court located in strategic cities.

b. The danger of the council - probably a reference to the sanhedrin. Whatever the case, death was the worst a human tribunal could do.

4. Eternal Penalty of God (5:22)

The danger here is literally the "gehenna of fire." Note the progression in punishment.

Anger may get you judgment.
Raca may get you before the council.
Moreh (fool) may get you hell fire.

Consider these texts:

"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." I John 3:15

Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossains 3:12-13

5. What is the Point? (5:23-26)

If you are unfit for worship on earth then it may mean that you are unfit for worship in heaven! If your brother has something against you then Matthew 5:23-24 tells you exactly what to do. If you have something against your brother then Matthew 18:15-17 tells you exactly what to do. It is far better to "settle your accounts" before going to court (temporal or eternal).

Brewster said "If you die in a state of mind unfit for worshipping God on earth, will you not be still more unfit to worship Him in heaven? You are in danger of being cast into a prison from which you will never escape, of being called to make a reparation which you will never be able to pay, of being delivered over to a punishment which will never come to an end."

After you get over your righteous anger concerning the death of Caylee Anthony then "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5)

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